Is customer service dead?

Recently, I have experienced both very good and very bad customer service.  Sadly, it seems as though the bad service is becoming much more the norm than the good these days.  Lackluster employees who treat the customer as an inconvenience or annoyance are found more and more at businesses and restaurants.  As a customer, this makes me angry.  As a person, it makes me kind of sad.

Let me give you an example.  I have many from the past week alone, but I’ll just start with one.  On Friday night, my family and I decided to go to an Indian restaurant for dinner.  They have been open for about 6 months, and up until this visit, have been pretty good.  When we arrived, we were greeted by the manager, and ushered to what he referred to as “our usual table”.  We sat down and began to peruse the menu.  This is when the first bad sign occurred.  I’m pretty sure that sitting at the table with the menus closed is a fairly common sign for “we’re ready to order”.  Despite doing this, it took the server approximately 10 minutes to come and take our order.  I asked a couple of questions, one being whether the chicken pakoras were all breast meat, or if they were a mix of white and dark.  I was assured that they were, in fact, all white meat.  My entree specifically stated on the menu that it was chicken breast, so I didn’t bother to confirm with the server that it actually was.  It took about 20-25 minutes for our appetizer of chicken pakoras to arrive, and when they did, they were certainly not breast meat.  So no chicken pakoras for me.

We wait about another 25 minutes for our dinners to come, which was tough, as the 3 year old was starving and starting to get restless.  The server never once came by to let us know that our dinner would be coming soon, to top up our waters, or ask if we needed anything.  When the dinner finally arrived, I eagerly spooned my curried chicken onto my plate, only to discover that it was not, in fact, white meat.  To explain – for some reason ( weird reason, according to my husband) dark meat upsets my stomach.  That is why I always confirm before ordering a chicken dish that it is white meat.  I called over the server, who, incidentally, did not come by to see how the first few bites were tasting, and told her that it was dark meat.  She looked puzzled, and said very loudly to the manager, ” she claims that it’s not white meat and it’s supposed to be”, in a tone that indicated that she either didn’t believe me, or was supremely annoyed at my statement.  The manager then came over and looked at it, told me that another one would be out in 5 minutes, and took it away.  About 10-15 minutes later, the server brought by another dish.  This one didn’t look like chicken, but she said that it was for me, so I tried it.  It was paneer, and was quite yummy.  Several bites into the dish the manager comes back with another pot of curry.  Apparently the server brought me the wrong one, but no one noticed for several minutes.  He graciously allowed me to eat the piece that I had on my fork ( he actually said ” I will let you have that one”), but snatched the pot away from me.   Ok, fine, that was the wrong dish.  However, they could have apologized for the mixup, especially considering that my family was now essentially  done their meals.  Once again, I spoon some curry onto my plate, cut into it, and it’s pink in the middle.  That’s right, they served me raw chicken.  Once again ( are you sensing a pattern here?) I had to call the server over, and let her know that the chicken was raw.  She then called over the manager, who had a look at it, told me that it looked fine but that he would show the chef, and took away my entire plate.  Rice, naan and all.  He returned in a few minutes, and told us that the chef said that it was just fine.  At this point, my husband gave him a little demonstration from the piece of chicken that I had given him, showing him how pink juices were coming off of it.  The manager couldn’t really say anything, but stormed off with the plate.  There was no way that I was going to try again, so I left having had no dinner aside from a couple pieces of dry naan.

As we were leaving, I noticed the chef standing at the bar, glaring at me.  I didn’t see him before, as my back was to the bar, but my husband informed me that just after I sent back the dish, he came out, and had been standing there gunning me off ever since.  A good 5 minutes at least.  There was no apology from the manager for the raw chicken, no attempt to try and salvage my business.  Not a single word.  He simply handed me the bill and waited for my credit card.

Now I’m not entirely sure – does the restaurant not care if they get my business back?  Or do they simply think that I will go there again anyways?  I may return for the lunch buffet sometime, but highly doubt that I will order dinner from them again.  It’s not like I was rude or demanding, I simply wanted the product as advertised on their menu.

Whatever happened to being polite and respectful of the customer?  Whatever happened to owning up to your mistakes and making a simple apology?  Are businesses training their employees to treat customers merely like an inconvenience and forgetting that without them, there would be no business?  When did we, as a society, become so uncaring towards others?

I could go on and on, as I notice it happening everywhere from the mall food court to the higher end restaurants.  Don’t even get me started on most stores that I have been to.  Work is not a place to socialize with your friends and fellow employees, all the while ignoring the customer.  It is not about blaming me, the patron, for the mistakes made by the kitchen.  I have worked in the service industry, and am quite sure that I would have been fired had I treated a single customer the way that I have been treated lately.  It’s not just towards me either, I see the same thing happening over and over again.

When did our standards become so low?  How do we, the consumer, send a message to these businesses that this kind of service and treatment is not acceptable when it seems to be the norm everywhere?  What is lacking from the training that people act like this?  Is this a sign of what society is turning into?  I certainly hope not.

Have you had any experiences, good or bad lately? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

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